Gerontology professor wins grant for research on diets

USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology professor Valter Longo’s research into how fasting and diets can protect against aging and diseases was awarded a $10 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. The grant is to be given out in $2 million installments over the next five years, a USC news release said.

Longo is the primary investigator in a project involving researchers from USC and Harvard University. While Longo’s research focuses on how food can affect aging, the program grant applies to a variety of interventions to prevent aging through the regeneration of cells, systems and organs.

Longo, who is the director of the USC Longevity Institute, designed a low-calorie diet that mimics the effects of fasting. Part of the grant funding will examine how his diet affects cellular regeneration and aging.

“We propose to improve these fasting-mimicking regimens, test their effect on mouse health span and test the hypothesis that they promote both cellular protection and stem cell-based regeneration in multiple systems,” Longo told USC News.

Three other researchers at USC and Harvard are receiving part of the grant to fund their projects, including one that looks into how humanin, an amino acid compound known as a peptide derived from the mitochondria, could protect against age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. That project will be led by Davis School of Gerontology Dean Pinchas Cohen.

Another project, led by Harvard professor James Mitchell, will investigate how hydrogen sulfide affects cellular stress resistance and longevity, which could have implications for stem cell regeneration.

USC gerontology research professor Todd Morgan will oversee experimental protocols for the entire program, ensuring that mice and other animals used in the projects are standardized among collaborators.

“These studies will contribute to the identification of drugs and interventions to treat and prevent multiple diseases by acting on the aging process and on multi-system regeneration and rejuvenation,” Longo told USC News.